Inspired by the iconic fairy story, the syndrome is a dangerous but rare physical and psychological health condition
In 1812, the German folklorist duo The Brothers Grimm documented the well-known fairytale of Rapunzel, a girl with long “golden” tresses imprisoned by a witch in a long tower.
However, in 1968, physicians E. D. Vaughan, J. L. Sawyers, and H. W. Scott first reported the rare health condition known as the “Rapunzel syndrome”.
“Rapunzel syndrome” is an extremely rare intestinal condition in humans resulting from ingesting hair (trichophagia).
People with hair-related mental disorders like trichotillomania (or hair-pulling disorder) and/or trichophagia (or compulsive eating of hair) tend to develop trichobezoar or hairballs in their stomachs and intestines.
The condition has been greatly associated with mental disorders like psychosis, severe depression, and postpartum depression.
The syndrome was so named because the length of the hair and the uncommonness of the situation are characteristics both of the fairy tale and of the clinical cases described in the report published by the initial investigators.
Over the years, the number of cases registered is a handful, with the patients experiencing successful recovery through laparotomy.